Monday, April 03, 2006

The Consequences of Ideas


As I was listening to a Christian talk radio show today called "Crosstalk", which was discussing homosexuality, a caller called in to express his upset feelings toward the hosts. What the man said was not that he disagreed with them that homosexuality was wrong per se but rather that he thought it was arrogant for the hosts to talk as though they "had the truth". He repeatedly said he was not religious but thought that everyone is on their own "path to truth" and basically that it is just plain wrong to say that another's' view of truth was invalid. The hosts began responded to the man gracefully but it seemed to me that they missed the heart of what was wrong with what the man had said (although what the hosts had to say was indeed right on). I began stammering to the radio "No! Address the relativism!". The host did a fair job in responding, the problem is that I highly doubt that the caller saw the flaw of his reasoning. Rather, by having bible verses quoted to refute him he no doubt only saw more confirmation of an intolerant arrogant narrow-minded Christian view, which claims to have the corner on the truth market. The man needed to see the fundamental flaw of his reasoning, namely that it was relativistic and self defeating.

What was wrong with what the caller said was that his statements, and all relativistic statements for that matter, is that by their very nature they are self refuting. Take for example the statement "It is arrogant for you to claim that you have the truth." What is being said here? One is saying that it is wrong for you to say that anothers views are wrong and yours are right thus claiming monopoly on truth. That's interesting, so you are telling me that it is wrong for me to think that others' views are wrong? When someone says that they are doing the very thing they claim we are not to do, namely telling you that what you think is wrong. Not to mention the fact that by even making such a statement one is making a truth claim. The truth claim of the above statement is that all truth claims are equally valid. Is that the truth? The truth we need to adhere to when dealing with truth claims? It is a self refuting argument on multiple fronts.

The same goes for almost every pop-spiritual slogan in our day. It's an excellent rule of thumb when analyzing a statement to see if it meets its own claimed standard. I have been snacking on Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith's book "Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Mid-Air" (cover above) it has very good reasoning and helps one see the hollowness of so many of the cultural slogans about "tolerance","morals", "judgment" and "truth". It is a powerful book and shows the consequence of ideas, which we can see right in our own day. Greg (This brought tears to my eyes as I read it) cites a testimony of a nurse in a hospital who was called by another nurse saying "come see mrs X's baby" she was led into the nurses lounge where to her horror she saw a premature baby still breathing lying on a steel examination table while the nurses sat smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee on break. Upon asking what was going on she was told that the baby was too premature to bother attempting to save. The child was 19 weeks old in seven more days he would have qualified. The nurse held the child saying "He's still alive..." Only to have the head nurse snatch the baby and stuff him in a formaldehyde jar. He was just trash at nineteen weeks old. (p.21-22)

That's pretty rough to hear, and it may seem a far cry from "it's arrogant to claim to have the truth" but I don't think the two are separable. Although the caller on the show probably wouldn't support such a horrific treatment of a child yet by his very position he really can't say that such behavior is wrong, for that would be to make an absolute truth claim. In such a world-view what is horrific to one is normal to another and neither person can be definitively right and wrong. In such a world-view one can adamantly support saving the whales while supporting eugenics through aborting postborn babies with down syndrome. In essence men within the context of a relativistic world view have completely lost any moral compass. These are the consequences of bad ideas.

Relativism is the philosophical result of man starting from himself in a multi-religious society, as the arbiter of truth, thus resulting in a "to each his own" religious and moral mileau. God has made Himself known in His word we are not left to treat Him as ice cream and pick and choose what kind of God we will worship. We are to worship the Lord "In spirit and in truth" (John 4). God has revealed His moral standard to us throughout the bible and shown us what is right living and what is wrong living.

And ultimately God has revealed His plan of salvation to man in Christ, and Christ alone. Christ made claims as no other, He is not one among the many flavors we can choose from all leading to the same place. Christ claimed that He is the way, the only way for man to escape the wrath of almighty God, (we in American culture really don't fear God as we should, we see Him as a philanthropist...That's a different post). Christ and Christ alone is the hope for man to be saved, no one else made such a claim, not Buddha not Muhammad, not Bahaualalu, only Christ claimed to die for the sins of the world. I'll let the Word speak for itself:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." (John 6:53-58)

That is either true or it is false.

2 comments:

Arch Van Devender said...

Thanks for the article. It is curious that most avowed relativists rest their case on the claim, as you quoted, that no one can "know" the truth, or have asolute confidence in their knowledge of it. Yet, they base their ethics on the claim that they should be free to practice whatever they wish as long as it doesn't affect anyone else in a negative manner. They go so far as to be willing to support coercive force against anyone who interferes with this freedom. Thus they support the universal claim of freedom within their sphere of "personal sovereignty" - this is an absolute claim to truth - they cannot rely on any external authority for it yet they hold it anyway.

Curious.

Grey Owl said...

Bob - you said, "The host did a fair job in responding, the problem is that I highly doubt that the caller saw the flaw of his reasoning. Rather, by having bible verses quoted to refute him he no doubt only saw more confirmation of an intolerant arrogant narrow-minded Christian view, which claims to have the corner on the truth market. The man needed to see the fundamental flaw of his reasoning, namely that it was relativistic and self defeating." - excellent point. A good article all around, but you demonstrated more care and sensetivity with the topic than most would have. I enjoyed it.